EAST LANSING, Mich. — Before he could get into Michigan State’s 74-66 win over Ohio State on Tuesday night, Spartans coach Tom Izzo had to address something that bothered him.
Periodically throughout the game, the Izzone student section chanted “We hate Dakich” at ESPN color commentator Dan Dakich. Dakich had been responding to Michigan State fans on Twitter with jabs that they could not get accepted into Michigan and that “nobody whines like Sparty.”
This followed the Spartans’ 86-57 loss to Michigan on Feb. 7, which Dakich also commentated.
Izzo, who didn’t like the chants when he heard them, changed his tune after someone showed him the tweets. And it became priority No. 1 in his postgame news conference.
— Larry Lage (@LarryLage) February 15, 2017
On Dakich and the chants: “Before I go into anything, I’ve gotta tell you that I do a lot of work to somewhat control the Izzone. And if there’s things not being said, I email them, I talk to them. I catch hell both ways if too much is being said, if not enough’s being said. But I’ve gotta be honest with you. I was kind of getting upset at the chants of Dakich, until I got in the locker room and I asked, ‘What was that all about?’ And somebody read me his tweets. It was social media.
“And if I would’ve known that before the game, I would’ve embarrassed myself almost as much as he embarrassed himself, and I would’ve led the chants. Because calling us whiners (Dakich later deleted the tweets) and that is kind of unprofessional of classy broadcasters. George Blaha and everybody else wouldn’t even think to do something like that on TV. But saying our students couldn’t get in there (Dakich later deleted a tweet telling a fan he couldn’t get accepted to Michigan), and he’s doing games for Michigan when his son (Wolverines guard Andrew Dakich) is there? That is a disappointment, and that is ridiculous.
“And I think it’s funny because I’ve got no respect for him for that, and I’m gonna publicly say it. You can tweet it. You can read it. You can do whatever you want with it. But Twitter got him in trouble, and he earned it, and I’m surprised ESPN would let somebody say something like that, that works for ’em. That’s off my chest now. Another one for Twitter.
“But Danny owes our fans and our students an apology, and I probably won’t get it. But I’ve always gotten along with Dan, but as you know, it seems like this year, a lot of people have been mad at me. But I would’ve love to get in that Izzone and join those chants if I was on Twitter. Thank God I’m not. Thank God some of my friends are. So, there’s the commercial today, and now we’ll get back to the game.”
“I’ve just got to accept we’re a grinder team. Every time we got a big lead, 9 points, 12 points, we just found a way to make us uncomfortable. But give us credit. We grind it out. I guess we’re not gonna be pretty, but pretty doesn’t get you any wins anyway.”
Eventually, Izzo discussed the win.
On freshman Miles Bridges’ performance: “I thought at times we played really good basketball. I’m telling you, that is a really good basketball team. They’ve got veterans, talented guys that are hard to guard. We struggled with the dribble penetration in that first half. We had a couple guys that just couldn’t guard anybody. I thought Miles had a very average game, and I told him after the game.
“What I really liked, though, is when he gave up 5 points in a row, (and) it was the first time in a while that it was a gut check for him. And like great players do, he rose to the occasion (finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds). I think that’ll be the best thing I got out of tonight.”
On Alvin Ellis III, who scored 18 points, and his career to this point: “There were times that I questioned Alvin Ellis. What I thought he did for two years was not what you need to do to play at this level. Last year, he started getting a little better. And this year, he had the one thing that this team doesn’t have a lot of. He’s tough. He’s a tough kid. He started making shots, but believe it or not, he’s been really good defensively the last two games, three games. I’m happy for Alvin.”
On turnover issues — the Spartans had 16 more on Tuesday: “Some of them are those freshmen trying to do too much. Sometimes guys try to do too much because other guys aren’t doing their job. Once in a while, guys aren’t rolling or in the position they need to be in. And once in a while, to be honest with you, defenses are pretty. We said about (Ohio State head coach Thad Matta’s) defense, they get their hands on a lot of balls. We warned Miles that if you’re driving, there’s gonna be guys slapping at it, and they did a good job of that. So sometimes the credit goes to the other team, too.”